The Hills and Hornsby mayors cannot agree on future of councils

THE HILLS mayor Michelle Byrne has accused the Local Government Review Panel of ignoring The Hills Council's proposal to adjust council boundaries.

Cr Byrne said that while the panel's final report contained good points and made a great case for local government reform, she was disappointed her council's plan had been overlooked.

Click here to read what Cr Byrne said about this plan at a forum of the Dural and Round Corner Chamber of Commerce in October.

"The report makes note of the fact that overwhelmingly, councils are opposed to amalgamations," Cr Byrne said.

"We're one of the few forward-thinking councils that haven't adopted a head-in-the-sand approach, yet we've been given the same recommendations that we were given in April 2013."

Last June, The Hills councillors unanimously backed a plan that would see a new, larger council formed to cover suburbs which currently fall under the boundaries of Hills, Hawkesbury, Hornsby and Parramatta councils.

Click here to view a map of the proposal.

The plan would have resulted in fewer councils in Sydney's north-west.

But Hornsby mayor Steve Russell agreed with the panel's view that local government had been "bogged down in lengthy and emotional discussions about amalgamations for far too long".

Cr Russell said while he welcomed Cr Byrne's comments and looked forward to negotiations over the next few months, "we have to remember that the council amalgamations are only one part of the total report".

"It seems that people are only looking at one piece of the jigsaw," he said.

"That's short-term thinking and just puts up barriers."

NSW councils have until March 7 to respond to the report.

Cr Byrne said the report made valid points, and underlined The Hills Council's good financial position.

But she said the report painted a "pretty grim picture" for the future of local government should it remain in its current form.

"We're one of only seven NSW councils to have a positive financial outlook," she said.

"Something needs to be done to make local government more sustainable as an industry.

"It's time that local government in NSW realised that this means fewer councils, not more grants and subsidies from the state and federal governments.

"There's no way that councils opposed to amalgamations will consider voluntarily merging.

"To reduce the number of councils in NSW, there needs to be some forced amalgamations."

Cr Russell said: "It's about making sure we have the settings right so we can provide the best possible facilities and services for the people of the shire now and those that live here in 50 years. We must look to do the right thing for the future."

Local Government NSW has meantime asked the NSW government to extend the time for councils to respond to the Review Panel Report.

Click here to read more.

The body represents the interests of all 152 NSW general purpose councils, 12 special purpose councils and the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

■ Read previous articles on the boundary plan:

The Hills Council push to absorb neighbouring suburbs 

"Unjustified" Hills land grab has neighbours wondering

Boundary changes favoured by Hills mayor

Read more on what The Hills Council said in June, when it first proposed the changes

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